Issue #12 – How Sports Equipment is Made

Vaulting Pole

Flexible Long Pole made of fiberglass or Carbon Fiber. They have been around since ancient Greek.  It’s been around in the Olympics from 1896-present. The technique of pole vault is to approach, plant and takeoff, swing up, extend your hips upwards, turn, and fly away without knocking over the bar. The first poles were made of bamboo. The process for making a pole begins with wrapping strips around a metal pole called a mandrill, this gives the pole its flexibility, and then a second layer is wrapped in the opposite direction increasing the flexibility. At this point precut patterns of fiberglass are then put on using heated rollers; the patterns are cut to reflect the weight of the vault. They are then put into a special oven that applies pressure to the wrapped fiberglass and activates the resin to make it hard. Once it is hard it is removed from the mandrill and tested to give it the right weight restriction.



Custom Running Shoes

First you measure out a person’s feet with a 3D scanner. Next the athlete steps on a pressure plate in order to make an exact duplicate of the person’s sole. Then a custom pattern is made by a computer guided water jet that cuts it from synthetic  fabric when sewn together this part is called the upper. A seamstress sews the pattern created together to complete the upper. The lace holes are then punched into the upper and stripes are sewn on to create the shoes design. Then the inner sole fabric is sewn to the upper to create the shoe’s basic shape, a rounded stitch is used to prevent fraying of material. Next a plastic replica of the persons foot created from the 3D scan is inserted into the basic shoe. Fabric is then glued to the heal of the shoe and pressed and hammered to conform to the plastic replica. The glue is allowed to dry for five hours. Then midsoles are cut from dies based on the person’s foot, which are beveled at the tip to help for a smoother landing when the person runs. The outer sole is the bottom of the shoe and has a tread pattern that is chosen by the person buying the shoes in advance and is trimmed to match the midsole, they are glued together and pressed with a hydraulic press. These fuzed parts are then glued to the upper and set aside to dry for another 5 hours. A breathable memory  foam insole is then inserted in the shoe, this insole is treated to be bacteria resistant and conforms to the foot of the wearer.



First you get a huge piece of cowhide and a worker uses a die to cut out the 4 shapes needed. Then you label each of them with a stamp that has the company’s logo and other information on it.  Then the four pieces are trimmed and vinyl is sewn to the inside, then the pieces are sewn together inside out.  A worker then punches the holes that are for the air valve and the laces. The cowhide is then steamed to soften the leather. A work then turns the leather right side out on a metal bar, the inserts the bladder that will hold the air, this bladder is made of polyurethane. Then a four foot long lace it laced through the center holes, this is where the quarterback holds the football to pass it. The football is then temporarily overinflated to help form the shape. When finished the football must weigh no more than 15 ounces fully inflated, it must measure 21 inches around the middle of the ball and 28 inches around the long ends of the ball.


Bicycle Helmets

Bicycle helmets are designed for safety as well as to be stylish. First, a polymer sheet is placed in a mold and four helmet shells are formed by heating the sheet to 149 degrees Fahrenheit and using suction to form them to the mold.  Then, a worker cuts the four outer shells from the mold by hand using a heated wire; using the same wire the worker cuts the preformed ventilation holes into the outer shell. Next up is trimming the shell with a router. Next, to form the inner shell polystyrene beads are heated using steam to expand them into a mold that forms it to the inner shape of the shell. Holes are cut into the round foamed inner shell for ventilation. After that the shell is inserted and glued together. To make sure it works the helmet is put through destructive tests, 1 in 500 helmets is vigorously tested for safety.

bicycle helmet

Baseball Bats

The weight and length of the bat are important. Type of wood is also important. They are made of maple or white ash. The wood is put on a lathe to make it round. The round piece of wood is called a blank. The blank is put on a computer controlled lathe where it is shaped into a basic bat shape. The end of a completed bat gets measured with a caliper and the blank is put on a traditional lathe where they use a square edge chisel to form the end into the same measurements as the completed bat. Using a skim tool to taper and shape the bat they spin it until it is the right shape and size, being sure to carefully measure it as they go along. The bat gets rounded both ends using the square chisel.  Then on a lathe it gets sanded so it is smooth. The bat is stained and painted, then decals are placed on the bat and finally a light coat of varnish is applied.



Hockey Stick

A worker layers 15 sheets of graphite in vertical and diagonal directions to create the shaft of the hockey stick. The shaft is then bound together using a resin and heated to dry, it is then flex tested using a machine that bends it one inch to make sure it is the proper strength. The blade starts with a foam core from the center so it can absorb impact from the hit of the puck.  The shaft and blade are glued together. Then the core is covered by a sock one ran diagonally layer to create a criss cross fibers. A wood mold is used to shape the blade. The mold is put into a press. The press shapes the blade and Compresses layers into a single unit. Then they bend the blade to the shaft using a router to a specific shape. The shape must be to NHL standards. The curve of the blade must be ½ inch, the height of the blade must be 3 inches, and the length of the blade must be 12 ½ inches. The blade is sanded and buffed. The stick is then dipped in urethane to fill in tiny imperfections. A machine sprays silver paint to the base of the shaft and then coats it in urethane. Models are made in left and right hand form. Then they put player’s name sticker onto the stick.

hockey stick


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